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Writing about Writing

4 July 2023

As I sat down to write this month’s blog, about the therapeutic, transformative act of writing itself, the thought suddenly entered my head to see whether Chat GPT could write it for me? I typed in “Write a blog about writing in the style of Sarah Lethbridge”, pressed ‘Enter’ and waited approximately 3 seconds.

Not really having any idea about how such types of AI work, I pondered whether it might read all of my blog posts in a nanosecond and then spew forth some narrative about a terrible service experience, a tenuous link to writing, peppered perhaps with some swipes at the injustice felt when oppressed by the tyrannical patriarchy.

Reader, frankly the results were startingly accurate and far exceeded my expectations.  Click here to read (because posting it within the main text of the blog is too nauseating even for me, and it is of course, a pile of manure).

Yes, Chat GPT appears to be a frightening mix of Mystic Meg’s Horoscopes and a Sally Morgan “Britain’s Best Loved Psychic” show.  It seems to know me “better than I know myself”, tapping into my every secret desire, telling me exactly what I want to hear.  Digging a little deeper into the narrative, I doubt whether my contribution to the world could be deemed as something to be analysed “within the realm of literature”. I’m also not aware of publishing any poetry ever, so I will probably park this assessment of my writing in the “you wish Sarah!” pile and muse about what happens if I tried the, clearer, search phrase “Write a blog about the benefits of writing, written in the style of Sarah Lethbridge”.

Ok I tried it and it wasn’t anywhere near as exciting. Although the final sentence was

Unleash the writer within you, dear reader, and watch as your words dance across the page, illuminating your path and enriching your life beyond measure.

Hmm.  I do use the phrase “dear reader” a lot (see above… thanks to the impact Jane Eyre had on me as a teen) and the sentence certainly does seem to capture my flair for drama.

ANYWAY, both attempts have taught me that maybe I still have to actually write this blog so let me now focus on what I actually wanted to share after I read this post on Linked In and subsequently watched this fascinating lecture by Larry McEnerney about the importance of writing differently in order to help your readers connect with your work so that they find it valuable.  It’s a must watch for any academic at least (there’s a great summary here).

“Unlike a journalist, almost surely, you are using your writing process to help yourself think. In other words, the thinking that you are doing is at such a level of complexity that you have to use writing to help yourself do your thinking”.

This quote resonated with me … mainly because I have written before about many of my lean revelations occurring during the process of teaching itself – that teaching helps me to think.   And of course, writing helps me to think too.  I enjoy writing these blogs and unlike the point that Larry McEnerney is making i.e. the importance of understanding your readers first and foremost whilst posing the question ‘what is the problem that I am trying to solve’, answering this question doesn’t actually feature in my creative writing process, to my knowledge, AT ALL.

I write about things that I find interesting in a way that I find enjoyable.  So far so selfish, but that assessment doesn’t give credit to the benefit I personally gain from such opportunities for reflection?

Our Logistics and Operations Management section had a meeting about AI today where we discussed ideas about how it can help us, help our students, how it can enhance teaching and learning.  This workshop happened on the same day as a Russell Group issued statement about how Universities should embrace AI.

Until I wrote this blog, I was a major advocate of embracing it too.  Everything that I teach is ‘skip to the end’, ‘focus on what’s valuable’, LEAD TIME REDUCTION! Chat GPT is all of these things in bucket loads! It’s a Lean Lethbridge dream!

But where’s the thinking? Where are the points of self-realisation, the struggle, where’s the sense of achievement? Begads, where’s the truth!?!

As I write these last sentences I just feel kind of flat.

The robots are here and they are stealing our thoughts.